Category Archives: politics

20Business is business


 

 

“The chief business of the American people is business,” according to Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president [1923–29].

A lawyer, he blossomed into a politician and as vice president took over from his scandal-ridden and expelled senior, Pres. Warren Harding. Coolidge. Like most of his fellows Coolidge was an advocate of smaller government and laissez-faire economcs, and, uncharacteristically, a stalwart supporter of racial equality.

One of the ironies of the American presidency is that although the independence of the New Republic was a revolt against interference of the Mother Country in trading, no “businessman” as such assumed the presidency until Donald K. Trump in 2017.

True, American presidents have often made business affairs a profitable sideline. Our first president, George Washington, for example, more than adequately steered the commercial affairs of the well endowed widow he married, she slightly more their common 27 years, in the White House in January 6, 1759.

Washington lived as a gentleman planter, in between his service in the British Province of Virginia militia in the French-Indian War [1754–63], his role commanding the grim campaign of the Revolutionary Army [1775 -1783], and his service as the first president [1789 to 1797]. Meanwhile, he worked constantly as an innovative farmer, switching from and experimenting with new crops, fertilizers, crop rotation, tools, and livestock.. By his death in 1799, he had expanded the plantation from 2,000 to 8,000 acres with more than 3,000 acres under cultivation.

Not all presidents have been so successful at their parallel commercial pursuits.

Thomas Jefferson, perhaps because an ostentatious lifestyle, owed money throughout his lifetime. His main source of income, “Monticello,” proved inadequate to cover his debts. Towards the end of his life, he he petitioned the state of Virginia to auction off his land; the state refused. After he died, his estate was auctioned but his surviving daughter was had to rely on charity.

James Madison, at his “Montpelier” plantation, suffered similar difficulties. While his various agriculture businesses were occasionally profitable, in the end they lost money. His stepson, a gambler, racked up debts Madison absorbed and forced him to sell half of Montpelier. Although he may have wanted to free his slaves, his financial troubles prevented him doing so, and he sold some of them to pay off debts.

James Monroe,Monroe ran his plantation into the ground. At the end of his life, he petitioned Congress to relieve his family’s debt and was granted $30,000. It turned out to be insufficient and he was forced to sell his Paris home and his 3,500 acre “Ash Lawn” estate. On Monroe’s misfortune, John Quincy Adams wrote “Mr. Monroe is a very remarkable instance of a man whose life has been a continued series of the most extraordinary good fortune, who has never met with any known disaster, has gone through a splendid career of public service, has received more pecuniary reward from the public than any other man since the existence of the nation, and is now dying, at the age of seventy-two, in wretchedness and beggary.”

President Harry S. Truman may have been the poorest of all U.S. presidents. He was worth less $1 million in today’s dollars. .

No one knows for sure how much Donald Trump is worth, but he is the country’s richest president ever. Trump is believed to have inherited $40 million when his father died in 1974. Bloomberg News estimates the GOP candidate is now worth $2.9 billion. But Trump claims he’s much richer than that because he believes his name alone is worth $3 billion.

sws-09-16-17

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18Reality and foreign policy


 

 

Donald K. Trump and his base went into office – unexpectedly for most observers – with a promise to cut back on American commitments abroad and to avoid new ones. That was the essence of ”America First”, an echo of an isolationist group and slogan in the pre-World War II debate over U.S. involvement in European arguments.

 

But what they have found to their chagrin is that it is not possible. Overwhelming relative power of the U.S. not only in relation to smaller countries but to other major world leaders makes it ipso facto a determining factor – even when it exercises the option not to take part in the decision-making.

 

The extent of U.S. power in relative terms cannot be overstated. The American GDP of almost 19 billion – the sum total of all its economic activity — in 2016 was $8 billion more than its nearest rival, China. That GDP is a combination of high average individual incomes, a large population, capital investment, moderate unemployment, high consumer spending, a relatively young population, and technological innovation. None of these are challenged by most of its competitors, again save China, and then only n a couple of categories.

The United States shares 24.9 percent of global wealth, while the smallest economy, Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation, contributes only 0.00005 percent. Fist ranked China shares 18.3 percent. In nominal data, in 2017 five economies would have GDPs above $1 trillion, 62 above $100 billion and 177 above $1 billion. The top five economies account for approximately 53.82 % of the total of world production, where as the top ten account for approx. 67.19 %.

The U.S. overseas involvements continue with few changes in American policy by the Trump Administration.

Washington’s involvement in the Middle East continues to be one of its most important foreign entanglements. The U.S. alliance with Israel depends not only on the important lobby of pro-Zionist Americans including the influential Jewish community, but important commercial and technological ties based on their commercial relationship.

When Trump initially tried to downgrade if not reject American participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], he encountered counter pressure. The threat of NATO intervention blocked further Moscow action against Ukraine, and supported UN and U.S sanctions against Russian as a lever against further aggression against its Western neighbors which its leader Vladimir Putin had threatened.

Trump’s short-lived love affair with China’s Xi Jinping has been torpedoed by China’s aggressive moves in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Beijing’s base-building athwart one of the major commercial naval routes of the world is inimitable to America’s longtime advocacy of freedom of the seas for itself and all navigators.

The China relationship also is critical to fending off the threat of North Korea to use its intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons against Guam or other U.S. territory. China not only accounts for 90% of North Korea’s external trade, but Pyongyang’s IBM and nuclear weapons owe much to the earlier transfers of Chinese technology.

A Trump hands-off policy in the civil war which has developed in Venezuela is not likely to be sustainable. The attempt to set up a so-called :”socialist” dictatorship backed by the Castro Regime in Cuba is an effort to seek anti-American allies among the left throughout the Hemisphere. Washington’s relations with Latin America are too intimate in terms of trade, immigration and defense capabilities to be left to the machinations of the bankrupt regime in Havana whose only strategy continues to be anti-American.

Trump, as his predecessors – since the end of World War II – finds increasingly that the U.S. must have a policy toward any of the major developments in world politics.

Sws08-09-17

 

 

 

 

All the rich are screaming


Normally we would be coming down hard on the side of newspaper owners in any argument; they are after all running the business where we make our living.

But we are finding it a little hard to choose sides in a struggle between three of the wealthiest men in the world and a news service organization – no pikers themselves for rolling in the dough. The problem seems to be that Google, the preeminent internet news service, has handed the three newspaper owners a bill they think unreasonable. Given their own great resources, it seems to be less a matter of their money than their power and influence.

The three newspaper owners who claim Google is driving them toward “serfdom” [their word no less!] are The Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos [worth $83.9 billion], perhaps the richest man in the world, the Mexican Carlos Slim who is also The New York Times’ largest stockholder, The Buffalo News’ Warren Buffett [the original megabillionaire publisher said to be worth a paltry $76.9 billion].

The three have asked Congress to intervene in support of an anti-trust action to back them against another duo of media moghuls, the billionaires Sergey Brin [$45.6 billion] and Larry Page [46.8 billion], the owners of Google.

The whole idea of a Congressional intervention is not only ridiculous but obviously unconstitutional: setting terms of any relationship between government and the media is a violation of the first amendment to the Constitution which says explicitly: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That has to include subsidies although perhaps at least temporarily beneficial to the media.[We’re not sure the U.S. Post Office subsidies for second and third class mail, although hoary parts of the current journalistic scene, don’t come under that purview.]

Google, of course, is a runner-up in a struggle with its old soulmate Amazon, both going after the broadest markets possible in their drive to eliminate the traditional retail outlet. The internet has allowed traditional retailers to connect with potential customers and express their brand in entirely new ways, and physical stores have become a part of their communication and sales strategy instead of being their only or primary way to reach consumers. Whether that isn’t a rocky relationship doomed to be eventually shaken loose remains to be seen with the retailer disappearing under the weight of his greater overhead.

The question is, of course, what is going to happen to the old newspaper establishments, so long a part of the financial as well as the cultural world. Many, if not most of that will continue to have a high value. But the days when a newspaper — even the voice of official Washington, The New York Times — set the contours of the public debate are rapidly disappearing. That isn’t helped, of course, by the current war of MainStreamMedia and their very personal antagonism toward Donald Trump. Having failed to recognize that Trump was a serious candidate, they have not accommodated themselves to the fact he is after all not only the President but one who is given to unpredictable and crucial decision-making. [He says not tipping your hand on upcoming decisions is an important part of any successful strategy.]

Trump has used the viciousness of the MSM attitude toward him and played it like a violin. If you give him the benefit of the doubt, you can say he has used this contretemps as a way of drawing attention away from his own more difficult agenda in solving the more important issues of government, although how far this strategy has worked if debatable and will be until we are further along in a very rough and tumble presidency.

Sws-07-18-17

Taking responsibility


We may never get to the end of the Susan Rice story.

History tells us that Rice rattled off a false tale on several networks after the attack and death of Four Americans – including the ambassador to Libya — in the Benghazi. Her detailed lie was that the deaths were the result of a semi-spontaneous anti-American demonstration occasioned by broadcasts from the then pro- Muslim Brotherhood broadcasts from radio Cairo that had spread throughout the Arab and Moslem world.

The truth was, of course, that the Libyan jihadists had plotted to kill Americans for some time, that the local U.S. diplomatic corps had been pleading unsuccessfully for weeks for additional defenses against what it knew were plots against them. Although Rice’s performance was almost immediately exposed, she suffered no particular consequences and continued as a high national security official.
The Rice story has barged into the headlines again with the revelation that she “unmasked” American citizens who, presumably, were only incidentally recorded in secret U.S. intelligence agencies’ search of communications for important leads. Theoretically such persons were protected unless specific requests were made for their identity by Administration officials, presumably because they would lead to further insights on the principal target of the surveillance.

When word eked out that Rice had been responsible for “unmasking” some of these names, she initially denied the role. But, again, she has backtracked and admitted that it was she who unasked some of these conversational participants. Why? is not yet to be explained since theoretically she was only a recipient of intelligence as she served as the 24th United States National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. It was in this role as a consumer of intelligence that she had access to the surveillance but theoretically had no authority except in unusual circumstances to direct its contents, a role for the several American intelligence agencies who produced the material for the president’s office to examine.

What is still at issue is whether having “unmasked” various U.S. persons who fell into the hands of the surveillance teams, she passed this material on to others in the Obama Administration, perhaps to be used against the Republican candidate in the run up to the presidential election last fall. Rice says she did no such thing, but given her record of stretching the truth, there is considerable speculation that is precisely what she did do.

It is here that we begin to enter the territory of does the punishment fit the crime?

Much too often recently, in “the swamp” in Washington that Donald Trump says he was elected to drain, there has been no penalty for either skirting the outer reaches of the law or, indeed, breaking it.

Instead, American public and private life has fallen into the speech formula of “taking responsibility” for the infraction. That epithet has moral and propaganda implications but it does not actually penalize the miscreant. In most cases, he [or she] either does not pay the price in dollars and cents for his failure to conform to the law nor does he surrender privileges and prestige that surround the position that has been violated. The most notorious example, of course, is Hillary Clinton’s use of her private e-mail [for whatever reason] to move official documents, which among other things increased their exposure to foreign espionage.

In both these instances of outright violation of the law, Hillary Clinton has announced that she “takes responsibility” for these missteps. But she has paid no other price.

This new version of the formula “I take responsibility” but requires no actual pain or suffering — either in prestige or in wealth – has eroded the whole concept of right and wrong in public life. It may be too late to fill the widening gap. But an effort ought to be done to take up this responsibility.

Sws-04-06-17

The Obama Legacy


Historians will debate the importance of the Obama Administration and its role in American history for decades to come, of course. The legacy which presidents leave behind them is always a concern of our chief executives, and it has been of even more importance to Barack Obama. As he marked a milestone in his tour of duty. leaving on a foreign tour, with a successor he opposed now chosen, he publicly drew his own optimistic record. He carefully picked, of course, in a press conference, what he considered the best interpretation of events over the last eight years. But at least for the time being, when his policies and their repercussions are still relatively fresh, it is hard to draw a balance sheet which is less than disastrous.
Obama, of course, perhaps more than any other recent president, is an ideologue – and he insisted in his political campaigns that he aimed at a “transformation” of American society. His framework for events is a combination of his studies of history but overlaid by the socialist and pro-Communist views of the little social-political group around the University of Chicago who launched his career.
There is no doubt that he has effected changes, whether they are indeed transformations, and whether any have been beneficiary, only time will tell.
But any honest examination of the effects of his strategies is a record of miscalculation and failures. Perhaps the most dramatic ones have been in foreign policy. His campaign to withdraw American power and decision-making from the international scene has demonstrated what had always been apparent to serious students of foreign affairs: the enormous power of the U.S., economic, political and military, has a role in any international confrontation even when Washington chooses to remain neutral or withdraw its influence. A world order without U.S. participation is not only unimaginable to our allies but something our adversaries always question as a possibility.
The Middle East is the most dramatic example of the failure of Obama’s effort to remove American leadership and power in the interelated conflicts there. First, his effort to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance encouraged the Moslem terrorists in the area. Then, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s courted the brief Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt – overthrown by the military through popular demand. Obama and Hillary attempted to boycott the new military rulers thus providing an opportunity for Russian arms sales and influence where it had been expelled a half century ago by pro-Western Egtptians. In Syria, Obama’s initial declaration of opposition to the Basher al Assad regime was followed by withdrawal. Washington’s retreat assured the descent into a bloody, irresolute civil war sending a flood of millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe. The threat of force followed by its withdrawal has returned Moscow to a base in the eastern Mediterranean and helped extend Tehran mullahs’ state terrorisn excesses across the Fertile Crescent, even into Latin America. A treaty to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons, never submitted to the Senate as the Constitution fdemands, is rapidly disintegrating
In East and South Asia, Obama’s ambivalent policies toward Chinese aggression have encouraged Beijing to aggressive territorial claims against its neighbors, discouraged unity among the Southeast Asians against Chinese Communist threats. Again Hillary’s much publicized pivot to the Western Pacific has failed to materialize. Slowly, the rape of the American economy by the Chinese through export subsides and currency manipulation – begun in the Bush Administrations — has become so clear that the Trump Administration qill have no option but a dangerous crackdown.
Obama’s role as the first American Afro-American president was, whether admitted in public discussion, seen as an important opportunity to continue to heal the historic American race problem. But whether in part because his own exotic background linked him neither to the rising black middle class nor the poor of the ghetto, he either took nondefensible positions on individual race incidents or neglected completely the mayhem of his own Chicago hometown. One has to assume that the American black leadership can only see these past eight years as a failure by a president, whatever his color, to contribute to solution of the race problem which appears to most observers to be in an even worse condition than at his entry into office.
Obama’s claim for his Affordable Care solution to long-term U.S. medical care is nearing collapse with skyrocketing costs and failure of the insurance framework which was to support it. His steady stream of executive directives for additional regulation and environmental restraints has contributed toward the slowest and most erratic economic recovery since World War II.
Despite his rhetorical skills and personal popularity as the first black president, Obama’s legacy will be a negative one. As the anti-Obama vote for Donald Trump has demonstrated, it will also cast a shadow on many of the techniques and political forms his very talented political team gave the nation.
sws-11-14-16

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The decision laying on the table


In the last critical hours before the American people decide their new leadership, the hyperbole will mount into near hysteria. Much, if not most, of what is said is either irrelevant or grossly inaccurate. Even the descriptive monologues of The Talking Heads are either exaggerated or dead wrong.
No, it is not certain this is the most important election in history, even recent history. That would have to left to historians with a more dispassionate view decades if not centuries from now.
No, it is not the most dramatic or controversial presidential election ever. Greybeards will remember when a dashing, young, handsome utilities executive organized the balconies at Philidelphia in 1940 to wrestle away the convention from the floor and domination of the historic Taft family of Cincinnati. [In many ways he set the style for the Kennedy brothers a generation or so later.]
No, not the most drama ever? going to work an early November 1948 morning on an overnight shift through an empty Time Square bereft of its NYC Democrats only to find a few minutes later that Harry S Truman had won a victory that surprised almost everyone included the professional politicians.
American presidential campaigns have always been as much show and tell as serious electoral proceedings. The parties were one of the few major governing features the Founding Fathers did not envisage. But even the otherise untouchable George Washington complained to his Thomas Jefferson follower, soon to be president himself, that Democratic-Republican critics were out of hand in their fight against they saw as the royalist Federalists around the first president.
None of this is to minimize the importance of the decision coming in next week’s voting booths. [Early voters by mail or whatever as a new innovation not to be discounted]. The voters are being given a choice of two candidates who may represent more differences than usual. They are not reflected in the policy arguments – which have been few and far between. Hillary Clinton, despite her enormous reliance on the Baracl Obama Presidency’s support, would likely drift quickly away from many of his policies, the disastrous Obamacare and the American overseas withdrawal where she is quietly much more hawkish.
But it is the tone that sets the two contenders apart, not their differences on policies. One has to take Donald Trump’s more flamboyant throw-away proposals with more than a dash of salt. Yes, Washington and the American people have tired of bearing what they consider an overload for the maintenance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But the argument, like all policy conundrums, is complex: is the solution in an expansion of European forces in thegface of new Russian aggression in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine. There are the complicated payments for resident American forces [which in any event would have to be maintained if in North America]. It’s an old and complicated argument, as old as the Treaty itself. But as the most successful alliance in history, NATO won”t be abandoned overnight whatever Trump’s throwaway suggestion.
But what Trump is adding to the political mix is a sense of the amateur, the non-professional political – one he rides to success on and cherishes. He may know, as he claims and which seems likely, that as a successful big businessman he has more than the novice’s share of understanding of how the system operates. That makes him, he claims in an interesting argument, the one to best tackle and reform it.
But what really sets this election apart – if, indeed, it is that unique – is that that the amateurism which Trump represents and the knowledgeable if tarnished professionalism of Hillary introduce a new and basic “feel” to the contest. There’s little doubt that Trump has reversed the traditional party roles, the mystic that the Democrats since at least Franklin Roosevelt’s time that they represented the little people and their Grand Old Party opponents were the creatures of Wall Street. We may never see those speeches Hillary gave at enormous fees for the corporations [nor Bill gold auxiliary speaking tours from the Clinton Foundation] but her ties to big capital are now well known.
The big policy questions may indeed be how much Trump could and would change major trends in the U.S. economy with his “amateurism”. Some of his [and Hilary’s] economic promises are downright foolish. Neither can nor would “return” the “jobs” they are promising. Washington’s actual contribution to the economy – even with such expensive outlays as FDR’s and Obama’s – has minimal effect. In fact, what business craves at the moment is the withdrawal of Washington’s bear hug. Meeting the demand for jobs against a tsunami of technology which is routinely eliminating them would be an enormous feat; America’s economy even traveling at its current slow rate demonstrates that new phenomenon.
So what’s at stake in a few hours is not thoughtful contradiction of ideas but the contest between a rank if talented amateur and a gifted is tarnished politico.
sws-11-04-16

Swapping myths


Enduring American political parties have always been coalitions. The country is too big and populous, with too many strong regional and other economic demands to meet the models of European-style ideological political configurations. In reality, the coalitions have often included absolutely contradictory forces making the fight for leadership of the parties in conventions and primaries more issue-oriented than the final election itself. We have seen that this year when the Republican primary candidates discussed every issue on the political battlefield but the general election is going to be purelu a contest of personalities, the cool, even cold, professional Clinton against the amateurish showman but attractive Trump..
These coalition-parties often have built myths about who constitutes the party machines and who votes for them.
The Democrats had been consistently as the party of “the people” – big city Irish-American machines, strong personalities with highly personal followings, not the least Franklin Delano Roosevelt for almost half a century, and Southern bosses with their solid, segregationist following. Then there was trade union support, and demagogic oratory backing up their claims which overwhelmingly depended on government legislation and intervention. The Republicans, on the other hand, were characterized as aristocratic with their “permanent” New to a New England constituency, their supposed strong links to Wall Street and the innocent rubes in the fly-over rural hinterland.
We may well be in one of those rare periods when even the myths are changing. One of the things Donald Trump is doing –- assuming he comes in a strong vote-getter if not the winner in November – is remoulding these traditional parties’ mystiques. In fact, he appears to be swapping them, one for the other almost intact.
His hard-core base of supporters are the proverbial “little people” who have lost their jobs to technology in the digital revolution or to overseas low-wage competitors, a large following that feel they haven’t got a fair shake from the system. In reality, Hillary Clinton’s Democrats have long since had uncelebrated stronger ties to the new Wall Street of the MBAs and widening international markets than the GOP. The South – look at the current loud battle for North Carolina – is not only less than solid Democrat but with strong Republican leanings since Richard Nixon’s days. Trade unions [except for the powerful traditionally conservative Teamsters] may still be Democrats but their numbers have melted except as government workers tied to the party in power.
Trump’s stream-of-consciousness oratory now often sounds like the old Democrat swan song. Democrat Hillary’s ties to the corporate world, particularly Wall St., were no more better demonstrated than tens of millions of dollars collected by her from the still to be revealed speeches to financial entities in the primary run-up to the general election campaign.
The old myths may hang on for a while in some benighted and less political circles. But what Trump is in the process of doing, if nothing else, is creating a new set of myths about the two great political coalitions – and, in fact, up to a point, simply swapping them as we go into a new political era.
sws-10-18-16

Obama’s Syrian legacy


It would be hard to exaggerate the mess in the Middle East that Pres. Barack Obama is leaving his successor.
While the five-year Syrian civil war continues unabated, pitting a number of different armed groups against each other with their foreign sponsors, Washington is caught in its own contradictions. In August American special forces assistance and bombing was given a Turkish incursion into northern Syria even though Ankara’s target was the American Kurdish Syrian ethnic ally most effective in the contest, and Washington’s target the Islamicist rebels now involved in the anti-regime movement.
Ankara fears Syrian Kurdish ethnics are attempting to set up a ministate, perhaps aiming to link up with its own Kurdish armed guerillas it has been fighting for three decades, often with Soviet assistance. The Turks fear America’s autonomous ally, the Syrian Kurds, the Kurdish region in Iraq, and ultimately, Iranian ethnic Kurds may try to form a new secessionist state with their own huge Turkish Kurdish minority.
Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Americans of having been involved in the recent failed coup against an elected Turkish government, one that under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is steadily headed toward an authoritarian Islamicist regime. Erdogan blames Fethullah Gulen. Muslim cleric and politician, once his closest infiltrating the state judicial and security system, for leading the coup and has formally asked for his extradition from the U.S.
Turkish airmen at the NATO-Turkish-U.S. base at Incirlik air base near the Syrian border were accused by Erdogan of implication in the failed coup, and U.S. operations there aimed at the Daesh [ISIS or ISIL Islamic terrorists] were halted temporarily. Not a comforting thought for Washington planners with nuclear weapons deployed there.
Erdogan’s leaky southern border has seen Islamicist support move south from Ankara and hundreds of thousands of migrants — some refugees from violence, others economic immigrants – moving on to Europe. His effort to blackmail German Chancellor Angela Merkel for additional aid and free movement of Turks inside the European Union in exchange for blockin the migrants has collapsed. Germany is hiccupping violently from the more than a million “refugees” it admitted last year with Merkel’s welcome.
Meanwhile, Obama courts Tehran’s mullahs. He signed what many believe was a no enforceable pact to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon, even though within weeks they publicly bragged of their firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile for carrying such a weapon. The American president went through secret contortions to pay $400 million – originally part of earlier arms purchases by the government of Reza Shah Palevi which Washington helped unseat – to free hostages. Billions more apparentlyis on its way.
The mystery is, of course, what Obama [and supporters of his Persian policy] think they are buying: Iran is already the world’s leasing sponsor of state terrorism and has lined up Mediterranean satellites in Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both, of course, threaten Israel. One of the troubled aspects between Jerusalem and Ankara, once close military allies, is Turkish support of Hamas, a common enemy now of Egypt and the Israelis.
Obama didn’t create the bitter and explosive Mideast animosities, of course. But he has built on that inheritance, antagonizing America’s tradition Sunni and Israeli allies in the region. In Syria, the crux of the conflict, Turkey is ostensibly an ally of the U.S. is seeking to oust the Damascus regime under Basher al Assad, supported in turn by the Russians as well as the Persians. Moscow, despite its still a crippled relic of Soviet power, is creating naval and air bases in Syria – culpable in mass bombing of civilian populations – aiming at the old Soviet influence.
Whether Obama’s original threat to intervene in Syria, then withdrawn, would have made the difference in controlling the Mideast chaos, is an unanswerable question. But there is no doubt that his policies have helped create the current chaotic situation, increasingly involving the major powers, that could be the beginning of a regional conflict spreading beyond its current confines.
sws-08-30-16

Corporatist America?


We’re not sure what can be done about it, but we regret the decision of the National Labor Relations Board that unionization of graduate students among private sector universities is now legal and a possibility.
The board — mostly Democrats — in a 3-1 decision ruled that there is no clear language in the National Labor Relations Act that would forbid teaching assistants from being classified as employees. The Board ruled that “they perform work at the direction of the university, for which they are compensated,” and therefore have the right to organize unions, the board’s majority said in its decision.
The NLRB has overall jurisdiction over union-organizing elections and referees in private sector workplace disputes. It doesn’t have jurisdiction over the public sector where a small portion of the roughly one million graduate students at public universities have been unionized for decades, generally covered by state law, not federal law. The new ruling came in response to a petition by the United Auto Workers Union’s free-swinging District 50 which has gone far beyond the bounds of its motorcar industry origins to expand unionization.
The petition asking for the new ruling – it reversed an earlier 2004 decision in regards to Brown University — from Columbia graduate students had drawn opposition from schools including Harvard University and Stanford University. The ruling could also cost schools millions of dollars in increased compensation.
But the universities’ administration opposition to the ruling in a joint legal brief, said collective bargaining in graduate programs could disrupt their ability to choose who would teach specific classes. The ruling rejects previous board decisions which argued whether teaching assistants should be seen primarily as students or employees; the majority decision now argued that they can be both.
Students deserve such protection when “they perform work, at the direction of the university, for which they are compensated,” the board ruled. The decision will pose a challenge for some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, who opposed it, warning that a decision in favor of the students could disrupt colleges across the country by injecting collective bargaining into graduate programs and adding an additional expense burden.
Philip A. Miscimarra, the Board’s single dissenter, argued that his colleagues disregarded the enormous expense faced these days by many students to finance higher education. “Congress never intended that the [National Labor Relations Act] and collective bargaining would be the means by which students and their families might attempt to exercise control over such an extraordinary expense.”
It remains to be seen whether the universities will challenge successively the NLRB ruling in the courts for a reversal. Prolonged fights over NLRB nominees slowed down the process by which the board could rule. Other universities are expected to challenge the NLRB decision in court.
Our own objection to the decision goes much further toward what we feel is a far move important insidious current in American life. We see this action as another move toward “corporatism”, toward the representation of conflicting economic and political interests through a corporate entity. We do not call this fascism, of course, although it was the original ideological underpinning of 1930s Fascism in Italy which sought in a world of increasingly complicated industrial and societal relationships to substitute the power of an organized entity [a corporation], whether it be on the left [trade unions] or the right [industrial associations] for negotiating the more intricate personal relations than of an earlier time.
Nowhere in the whole scheme of life is the relationship between the individuals – the teacher and the pupil – more important than between teacher and student. To substitute for that relationship, a collective [corporation] is to our mind the worst sort of deterioration of that very complicated and somewhat mysterious process of teaching, learning and education. Would it not be possible to somehow increase what we acknowledge is the current undercompensation of the graduate student-tutor rather replace his personal relationship with his individual learner?
sws-08-23-16

Tenure wins again


The California Supreme Court has failed to take on the case of a group of interested students and parents backed by Silicon Valley philanthropists challenging the state’s teacher tenure system.

A group of nine students had argued that making it easier to fire bad teachers would improve academic performance. They also argued that easier firings help eliminate the gap that separates white, Asian and wealthier students distancing them from their lower income, black and Latino peers

. Lower courts had ruled contradictorily on the case. The widespread disagreement on the issue was also reflected in the fact that the Court decided the issue on only a 4 to 3 basis. In effect, the ruling overturned a 2014 Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision that sided with the anti-tenure proponents.

California has among the strongest teacher job protection systems in the country. If a teacher invokes them, they inordinately increase the time and cost of the dismissal process. But the case has wide national implications as a model for one of the most complicated and contested issues in the whole growing demand for improvement of our deteriorated public schools.

A New Teacher Project study [2009] argued that 86% of administrators it surveyed did not attempt to terminate teachers they knew to be underperforming or acting improperly because of fear of the time and money of the overturning the tenure process.

But supporters of tenure respond that administrative red tape is the chief reason for this, citing lack of appropriate evaluations in most cases as the reason why terminations are so difficult. It can cost as much as $250,000 to pursue some states’ elaborate administrative process to fire a tenured teacher. Furthermore, supporters of strong tenure restrictions argue they prevent the ousting of teachers for irrelevant or controversial issues and thus help to preserve an atm,opshere of free inquiry in the system.

Unlike college faculty tenure, where educators must demonstrate their continued relevance by publishing research papers and periodic college attendance, K-12 educators are only required to receive for a number of years satisfactory evaluations.

Fortytwo of the 50 states require only three years or less before achieving tenure. From 2002 to 2009, New York City Public Schools, for example, denied tenure to only 3% of the teachers who had been teaching for three years, and that only after “reforms” had been put in place. Since teachers are at their least competence during their first years, it seems unlikely that 97% of new teachers deserved life-time job protection after only three years or less on the job.

This dismissal process has led to a widespread abuse. Many school districts use “secret buyouts” to get rid of underperforming or misbehaving teachers rather than face the onerous and expensive formal process of dismissal. The public often has no accurate explanation of why a teacher resigned with the agreements often including silence from both parties.

The case has been closely watched, not only in California, but countrywide. The question of tenure has become entertained with growing tensions between teacher unions, school leaders, lawmakers and well-funded education reform groups. All have strong views on the issue of tenure with the politically powerful teachers unions defending maximum interpretation of tenure law and critics of the growing school standards crisis arguing that failure to fire teachers with the least seniority keep ineffective instructors in the classroom, particularly in already low-performing inner-city schools.

Florida, North Carolina, Kansas and Idaho have repealed their earlier tenure laws outright, phased out tenure or removed due process provisions, though Idaho’s effort to abolish tenure later was reversed by voters in a referendum. Sixteen states insert teachers’ performance ratings as a component of decisions to grant tenure. Seven states now require cashiered teachers to be returned to probationary status if their performance is rated unsatisfactory. Another 11 states require that teacher performance be the primary consideration with Washington adding this requirement only n 2015-16. Ten states specifically prohibit the use of tenure status or seniority.

The refusal of California’s highest court to take up the issue strikes us as a grave mistake. The issue which is so intimate to the problem of a general consensus that public education is failing, particularly at a time when galloping technology requires higher and higher levels of knowledge to meet the daily requirements of any workplace. Ultimately, of course, the requirements for public education must reside with the legislators. But until then a discussion of the issues in the courts is a necessity. We hope that the proponents of the issue will find a way, perhaps ny taking it into the federal courts, for the airing that it must get if progress is to be made in solving our growing educational crisis.

sws-08-22-16

What to do about Turkey?


Vice President Joe Biden’s highly publicized visit to Turkey next week is likely to prove critical, if inconclusive. Whether he is able to establish a new relationship with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], the one with by far the largest military forces after the U.S., is crucial to the whole Middle East as well as the U.S. bilateral alliance and with its European NATO allies.
Biden is seen as trying to make a new bargain with Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the past few months, Erdogan has accelerated his accumulation of power through the usual machinations of a popular leader but with authoritarian tendencies, shucking elements of Turkey’s secular constitution. The recent failed military coup – apparently by the last remnants of the secularists who through military dominance have been the guardians of an effort to maintain the non-Islamic state – has been an excuse for increased repression and rampant anti-American propaganda.
The fear is that Erdogan is now turning his back on almost a hundred years when the country tried to move to a modern state with top-down Westernization. The abandonment of the state capitalist role for liberalization of the economy over the last decade had delivered unprecedented growth and prosperity. But that boom has ended, in part another victim of the worldwide economic slowdown.
Turkey had always been a model for other Moslem governments trying fitfully to break away from traditional Islam which combines government with religion. That struggle goes on among the 1.3 billion people in the Arab-Moslem world – from Morocco to Indonesia. And while no adequate response has yet surfaced, Turkey had been perceived to have made the transition. That now appears dubious at best.
But once again, the world is in one of those periods when 1500-year-old concepts of Arab-Moslem conquest and forced conversion has been part of the religion’s creed. That many, perhaps most, Moslems would ignore this concept is not enough to block a determined, fanatical minority from jihad – propounding the duty of a Muslim to maintain and spread his religion by whatever means.
Erdogan has played a clever game. He has managed, despite the bitter rejection by many outspoken European Union officials, to continue the hope of Turkish adherence to the Bloc. His flirtation with the Islamists — with such moves as reestablishing the death penalty — has now, however, vitiated that prospect.
He blackmailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for free movement of Turkish nationals within the EU, swapped for Ankara stemming the flow of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into Western Europe. But Merkel’s original welcome resulting in more than a million migrants entering her country last year is increasingly producing a backlash. Integrating newcomers with completely different cultural values has failed spectacularly, demonstrated in highly publicized crimes including rape.
Unlike the Europeans, Biden has the luxury of negotiating from a stronger hand, unlike the Europeans’ proximity and increasing problem of their growing largely unassimilated Moslem minorities. He can exploit Erdogan’s wildly fluctuating foreign policy which has failed in establishing a neo-Ottoman regime building on its once imperial presence in the region. A flirtation with Moscow – which supplies half its energy thereby running a huge trade deficit — is a feint aimed at Washington and its European allies. But just as they find themselves on different sides in the Syrian civil war, Erdogan cannot ignore Moscow’s threatening attempt to reinstall the Soviet role in the Black Sea and the Balkans.
Biden has to come home with something. One trophy would be at least promises for Turkey to tighten its borders, stop permitting aid to flow to the Muslim terrorists, and promising a more active Turkish collaboration in fighting Daesh [ISIS and ISIL], hoping that Erdogan recognizes that his Islamicism will not protect him from rising Moslem terrorism. But getting Turkey firmly back into the Western alliance would require stronger leadership of those partners than the Obama Administration can muster.
sws-08-16-16

Jobs, jobs, jobs…


In the hot lather of an unusually rambunctious presidential political campaign, more than a little nonsense is being slung about by the rival candidates about ending the current lethargy of the U.S. economy.
First of all, of course, the world’s job market is not a finite number.
When the international economy is robust, it is so intertwined that creation of jobs in one national economy is bound to produce them among their trading partners. That’s why it is wrong to talk of the Chinese and other low priced labor having “stolen” American jobs.
True, China is running a huge trade surplus with the U.S. In 2015, Beijing’s export surplus to the U.S. over American goods to China was a record $365.7 billion. But beyond the statistical review lies a basic consideration for both countries’ economists and officials: China is accepting a debt of an increasingly devalued U.S. currency for its labor and its own resources and imported raw materials sold to the U.S.
One could, indeed, make the argument that while subsidizing its exports and manipulating the currencies, Beijing may be “stealing” foreign employment, But it is also – an essentially poor country – exporting capital. Few of those who are blathering about the current American economic scene are remarking on the low=cost consumers’ goods that these Chinese policies have produced for the American consumer.
The campaign promise made by both candidates to “return” jobs from China and other low wage producers, is equally subject to criticism. If, as is generally assumed, this would be done by erecting tariff barriers against these imports, it would mean higher prices [and presumably less consumption] by the U.S. consumer. That could produce additional revenues for the federal government, of course – indeed, the main source of revenue for the American government before the enactment of the 1913 Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. constitution permitting a direct tax which did not – as the Constitution requires, a per capita distribution among the States.
But what may be far more important is speculation about what these “jobs” would actuallybne were they “returned” to the U.S. Given the incredible speed with which the digital revolution has revolutionized all phases of American life, including manufacturing and services, it seems likely that any “return” would produce quite different employment than that which departed. Increasingly, perhaps more than the “escape” of jobs abroad,, American unemployment is produced through the introduction of these advanced technologies/ What ever happened to “dispatches” for delivery networks or to the old-fashioned highly trained “cashier” at the retail checkout?
What often seems the logical solution to this problem is the reeducation and retraining of workers for new and different, and usally enhanced, jobs. Enormous sums have been devoted over decades to the problem of reeducating.
But over the decades enormous sums have been expended with out great effect by both the various levels of government and by private employers. Most studies show that displaced factory workers in the United States on the average have lower wages after retraining to other positions This si also true for tiaison jobs which develop from the offshore “escape” of American industry.
These rehabilitation programs have built in handicaps. Often the worker who is to be retrained is in mid-career, older and less amenable to retraining than a young person just entering the workforce. It also presents a difficult problem due to the individual personality of some workers. Researchers estimate that under the best conditions one expensive academic year of such retraining at a community college increases the long-term earnings by about 8%t for older males and by about 10 percent for older females. But in an age of increasing technological tools, that problem appears to be magnified in any future attempt to find employment for these workers.
Rather than talk in terms of “bringing back: jobs which have been outsourced overseas, the politicians – and their economists – had best be working on the expansion of the economy with new more sophisticated jobs and careers, both for the unemployed and those new entries into the workforce.
sws-08-14-16

Media disaster


Perhaps not since 1936 has there been such a failing through prejudicial media reporting of a presidential election. Then, of course, the enormously popular weekly, The Literary Digest, predicted a strong victory for the Republican conservative candidate Kansas Governor Alf Landon against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR bidding for a second term was pushing a radical program against traditional opposition in his own Party, the Congress and the courts. The landslide victory for Roosevelt that followed – every state but Maine and Vermont that became something of a joke – so invalidated the magazine’s reputation that it collapsed and disappeared.
One has to wonder if such a fate would befall one of the many media sources today or whether it would just continue to blather on.
For what we see in a media today is so slanted that it has further alienated an already antagonistic general public which long since lost all respect and faith in it. CNN and NPR’s support of Hillary Clinton – but much more their tortured attempts to avoid any negative reporting about her many recent pratfalls – is outrageous. And they are followed by the rest of the mainstream media with the exception of Fox News whose effort to maintain some semblance of balance makes them appear pro-Trump.
It is hard to know what has given us this kept press. Is it that the members of the media – with their [often literally] incestuous relationships with the Democratic Party, the Obama Administration and the “Inside-the-Beltway” elite — simply is reflecting their own prejudices? Certainly were that the case they would be overwhelmingly antagonistic to Donald Trump’s politics as a matter of custom rather than reflective partisanship; his perceived gaucherie and outside the Beltway language would be enough to condemn him.
Or is it that the media, as part of a self-appointed elite, is ideologically disposed toward an anti-Trump position, even into support for Hillary Clinton if for no other reason than she seems to reflect the same attitudes? Trump, right or wrong, has ferociously attacked some of the shibboleths of the ruling national political machine for the last half century. He has fed everything from “free trade” to “international cooperation” into the maw and put them up for grabs, revision or disabuse. The outcome of any debate he has touched off is much less important than the dust he has kicked up by even bringing the issue to a question and deliberation.
There is genuine concern in some quarters, not those who accuse him of being another Hitler, that he is removing the foundations of the long period of relative peace which has endured since August 1945. The Korean War and the Vietnam War were bloody interjections in this era, of course, but however bitter was their warfare and the political conflicts around them, they did not represent the horrors of World Warr I and II with its virtually destruction of whole generations of young European men. And the prospect of an even more destructive World War III was held at bay.
The way the anti-Trump media have seized on what are obviously elliptical or misspoken bits and pieces of Trump’ endless stream of consciousness chatter is not only unprofessional but criminal. It was obvious, for example, that when he mentioned the complicated idea [in a phrase], he meant that the enormously powerful following for the Second Amendment possibly could neutralize a roster of liberal judges Clinton as president would put on the Supreme Court. Yet almost the entire media were determined to make the phrase an indication that he was calling for assassination using the constitutional right for individuals to bear arms. A sarcastic reference to the possibility that Vladimir Putin might release e-mails Clinton had destroyed since the Russians were presumably hacking her non-official server and her various devices was turned into an appeal on Trump’s part for Moscow’s intervention in a purely American political fracas.
These are petty offenses. But multiplied as they are almost daily by other inferences and innuendos they add up to a prejudicial presentation of the presidential debate.
It remains to be seen whether, given the low rating all polls attribute to the public’s respect and credence for the media, it will be more than a minor part of the growing circus that is our presidential election.
sws-08-12-16

The Iran mystery


In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.

Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.

The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.

However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.

In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them

As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.

Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.

The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.

There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.

It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?

sws-08-04-16

A sad tale


The current dispute between Republican candidate for president Donald Trump and the family of a Moslem American soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan is a losing proposition for both sides.
When Khizr and Ghazala Khan decided to appear to tell their story of their son’s sacrifice for his country on the Democratic Convention broadcast, they were making it a political issue. They then cannot claim immunity when Trump attacks them for doing that.
Their excuse, of course, is that Trump’s earlier pronouncements on Moslems, his initial advocacy of banning all Moslem immigrants, had called them into the debate. They argued they had no alternative but to rebut the accusation that Moslem Americans were not loyal citizens. And the fact that they, as well as their son, were born abroad strengthened their argument with Trump.
The discussion has gone downhill ever since. Trump questioned the position of Mrs. Khan who did not speak initially, in effect, hinting it was the traditional repression of women in Islamic societies. Her physical aspect in the initial interview, including wearing a traditionl hijab [partial veil] seemed to confirm Trump’s hint. But she has since responded denying her submission to any restriction but offering the credible argument that any mention of her son made it almost impossible for her to control her emotions.
The whole affair, of course, points up the extreme difficulty of dealing with the problem of Moslems, most of all American Moslem citizens, in the current atmosphere. Any criticism of them is taken in some liberal quarters, including the Clinton presidential campaign, as islamophobia, a blanket prejudiced attack on a religious group.
But the fact remains that in the several instances of terrorism in the U.S. perpetrated by Moslem immigrants, often citizens, the question has hung in the air about how much their family and friends knew about their activities. Blanket denials that anything remotely connected with their terrorist acts was unforeseen seem dubious; can bomb-making and weapons practice take place in a home without the other members of the family knowing it is happening?
We can only guess that the source of much of the information which the FBI tells us has come into their hands and prevented many other attacks likely has come from fellow Moslems. They would be the first to sniff such activity. It is also apparent that what could be construed as sentiment among Moslems for the traditional acts of violence against kafirs [unbelievers or non-Moslems] which traditional Islam justifies is not shared by most American Moslems. But they are also likely to be intimidated if their lives are not actually threatened by the terrorists.
As the terrorists continue to strike out, not only in their base areas in the Middle East, but increasingly in Europe and the U.S. as they are being hammered by American and allied forces, this problem will become even more difficult. An honest discussion of Islam and whatever justification the Islamic terrorists claim derives from its ancient tenets is absolutely necessary.
It requires the kind of intellectual discrimination and honesty which paralleled The Cold War and the long fight to defeat Communism. The Communists claimed a progressives” role as sponsors of solutions to the contemporary world’s many problems, many of them part and parcel of the capitalist system. Often those arguments for reform appeared the same – if originating in quite different logical concepts – as those proposed by American liberals [not to be confused with European “liberals”]. It was always a moot point whether liberal spokesmen were indeed simply expressing similar goals or using subterfuge to cover their real loyalty to Communist goals.
The appellation of “McCarthyism”, the blanket condemnation of opponents as Communists simply because of their difference of opinion, has become a part of our political language. And not so unusually its origin is confused and its meaning misinterpreted. The fact is that many of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s targets were indeed Communists who concealed their real identify. His excesses arose in no small part precisely because of that fact.
Today terrorism, Islamic terrorisms and Islam present elected officials and their supporters with a similar set of subtleties. But ignoring an open discussion of Islam and its relationship to the Islamic terrorists is not the answer to the problem.
sws-08-01-16

Shame on us!


The almost total absence of public mourning for an 85-year-old Christian priest whose throat was slit by Islamicist terrorists while he led prayer in a small church in Normandy, France, is a scandal.
Even the French have demonstrated less feeling for this horrendous deed than one would expect from an event which took place in the village which once hosted the trial of Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine and a saint of French Christianity.
There was no moment of silence in the U.S. Democratic Convention, not unexpected given its total avoidance of the worldwide terrorist threat. One could have expected that Pres. Barack Obama, too, would have made a special effort to acknowledge this incident, so gratuitously evil as to be virtually indescribable. But that might be charged to his continuing effort to obscure the terrorist threat by refusing to name its origin in Islam and his elaborate courting of the terrorist mullahs in Tehran.
Searching for the answer to our question is the general concern above all others of the American and European political elites to avoid any hint of criticism or Islam. To be accused of Islamophobia now is an accusation in the Establishment which ranks above all others by the moral standards of those believers in bien pensé Being “politically correct” bans any negative reference to Islam.
Not only is this errant nonsense but it is a continuing impediment to the forceful pursuit of a worldwide campaign to end Islamic terrorism. Moslems, above all, must concede that the terrorists now among us who pledge their loyalty to Islam as a religion must be confronted on that ideological score..As the crude phrase has it, not all Moslems are terrorists, of course. But all terrorists are Moslems.
What is it, indeed, that however twisted in the history and practice of Islam which can be misinterpreted, if you will, into a rational for the kind of killing of innocents that took place in Etienne du Rouvray, in an almost empty church, involving three parishioners, two nuns and a very old priest. Knife-wielding ISIS terrorists interrupted the service and slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel and recorded their crime to use to attract new followers.
The truth is that much of the rationale which is constantly mouthed by our leadership about Islam simply is not true. It is not one of the three Abrahamic religions. It is a totalitarian concept which demands total adherence on the part of its believers for whatever its tenets as expressed by its largely uneducated clergy. The test of Greek knowledge which early was applied to Judaism and was a part of early Christianity was rejected almost a thousand years ago by Moslem theorists. The few Moslem voices who oppose Islamic terrorism are nevertheless reluctant to take on the problem of the political movement Islam represents.
Since its founding in the Arabian deserts, Islam has not been a religion of peace is so often stated. It has, in fact, from its origins been spread largely by the sword with the death of “non-believers” and those Moslems who have rejected its principal tenets.
The history of Europe shows how since its founding 1500 years ago, organized Islam – when it has existed – has challenged the political status of the European states. At its high points of strength, it has come near overpowering European armies and putting the West to the sword of forced conversion.
Yes, it is true, that Islam has absorbed – after its initial brutal and primitive organization among the Arabs – some of the rich philosophical background of its conquests such as from the Persians. But it remains, largely, a religion of conquest wherein now reside many, perhaps a majority, of supposed adherents who reject this concept. But it is also true that often through intimidation and intellectual confusion this vast majority refuses or fears to publicly oppose its ignominious concepts.
Until this problem of the fundamental relationship between Western societies and the peaceful Buddhist societies of Asia is addressed, there is no hope of defeating the continuing worldwide terrorist threat.
sws-07-30-16

The only strategy


Originally posted on June 13, 2016 |

While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.

There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.

The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando.

It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures.

But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.

Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.

But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve.

Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.

Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.

The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.

sws-06-20-16

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s sin


We have been waiting, rather impatiently, for some credible explanation for why the recent interview with The New York Times Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg did not take place. Or we would have settled for a denial. Or in the final absence of a satisfactory explanation, simply an explanation that it was a conversation with an old intimate of the Justice that was never intended for publication.
Where to begin to indict Justice Ginsberg for her lack of judgment, protocol or respect for that most holy of American institutions, the Supreme Court of the United States?
It is an old and honorable tradition, one of that has all the support of logic and a respect for law, justices and our institutions, that serving members of the highest court in the land do not discuss their deliberations, their views or the basis of their votes on issues. Bader Ginsburg has always been a show horse, far too ready to lecture in the public forum when she might have been attending to her torts.
But there is only one place for the justices’ views on the law: that is in the briefs which the Justices are permitted to write, either jointly in agreement with other justices, in dissent against other justices, or indeed, as impendent presentation of their legal views on particular cases which often as not may involve consideration of past verdicts of their colleagues on the Court.
The selection of justices for the high court is as serious a proceeding and duty as the president has as in the highest executive, elected by all the people, in the country. That selection and the approval – or disapproval – by the senate of his choice is a thorny political process. The fact that the Republican majority has held up approval of Chief Judge Merrick Garland., Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia who died suddenly earlier this year is not unprecedented. The reason for the Republicans’ reluctance is no secret; Scalia represented the keystone of the conservative majority in most decisions. Liberal Democrats in the same Senate majority position had done the same in the past. But given Garland’s generally highly respected qualifications for the bench, the Republicans might have been on firmer ground had they at least held hearings on his nomination and examined his past expressed views as well as his credentials.
In part, the Founders were less specific about the duties of the judiciary, the third and equal branch of government which they identified. This may have been in part because of their wariness about the threat that lifetime appointments – the only ones in government – might threaten a judicial ascendancy against the legislative and executive functions. In fact, the Founders less clearly defined the duties of the highest court and it could be argued that “judicial supremacy”, the right of the highest court to rule against the constitutionality of a law, arose as much by the action of strong chief justices in the early 19th century than by constitutional fiat.
The process reached a constitutional crisis in the mid-1930s after the wildly popular president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had won an avalanche in his second term election in 1936. FDR had his most loyal Congress supporters introduce the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937. — dubbed by its opponents as the “court-packing plan”.
Roosevelt was attempting to circumvent a strictly constitutional majority of the Supreme Court which had repeatedly struck down some of his more drastic efforts to boost a Great Depression economy. Indeed, some of these proposals – with 20-20 hindsight – were anathema to the U.S. political system, arising as they often did from FDR’s kaleidoscope of advisers, ranging on the right and left from admirers of then new Europe fascism to the Soviet Union Communism.
Then, as now, the court was dominated by older personalities, most clinging to their seats on the Court. Roosevelt’s plan would have permitted him to appoint an additional justice to the Court,, up to a maximum of six, for every member of the court over the age of 70 years and 6 months. FDR and his advisers argued that since the Constitution had not stipulated the number of judges but had been decided by law, it was within the Congress [at his instance] to change the numbers.
But public opposition to Roosevelt’s proposal – including by his own curmudgeonly vice president, John Nance Garner, defeated the legislation. But through the ordinary attrition of age, a more friendly court came into view. It was pyhric victory for Roosevelt, loosing him support even among other members of his own party. But what it may have done was the enshrine the sanctity of the Court including its prerogative acquired in the 19th century to strike down legislation as “unconstitutional”, against the fundamental gurantees of the founding document. In reality it established judicial supremacy among the three separate elements of government which the Founders had conceived, setting up the uniqueness of the American Republic. [Britain, from whom so much of American politics descends, has continued to preserve “parliamentary supremacy”, the ultimate authority of its elected representatives, a divergence that has marked continued debate among Britain’s former colonies, such as India.]
It is against this background that Bader Ginsburg’s remarks must be judged. She has not only violated her own obligations to the Court, but she has perhaps set a bad precedent for other justices to follow. Bringing the Court into the political process for election of the new president is intolerable. Not only are we owed an apology by the 83-year-old Justice Bader Ginsburg, but her early retirement would be a welcomed solution to the disaster she has created.

Obama’s Guantanamo politics feeds terrorism


Nothing so exemplifies Pres. Obama’s failed foreign policies and his attempts to usurp Congressional power than the mess that the White House has created at Guantanamo.
Obama promised in his 2008 campaign speeches that he would close the prisoner-of-war camp which the Bush Administration had created in the American Naval Base in southeast Cuba. The oldest overseas American base, originally leased from Havana after the U.S. liberated Cuba in the Spanish-American War in 1899, it has become an object of dispute since the advent of the Castro Communist dictatorship. The Bush Administration in its undeclared war against the stateless terrorists, first Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and then Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, had used the facility for imprisoning and interrogating prisoners.
Obama has claimed, with little or no evidence, that “Guantanamo” had become a rallying issue for recruiting anti-American terrorists. He repeatedly expressed — the last time early this year in another message to the Congress — that he wants to close it down and transfer its prisoners to Mainland federal prisons. Congressional opposition to both goals has been fierce, even including some Democrats – -particularly those close to possible federal institutions that might be used.
The Castro government has demanded that Guantanamo be returned as part of the Obama Administration’s reestablishing diplomatic relations and attempting to normalize contacts after a half century of the U.S. attempting to isolate the Cuban dictatorship. So far, the White House has refused.
The 45 square miles of rocky, cactus-speckled hills and jagged coastline along a pristine blue-green bay filled with manatees and dolphins continues even with the latest digital communications to have strategic value for the U.S. Navy. As a self-contained town of 4,200 American service members, their families and a small army of mostly Jamaicans and Philippines contract workers, “Gitmo” is still seen as extending the Navy’s reach.. Coast Guard and Navy ships regularly refuel while serving on missions in the Caribbean, allowing such sea craft to extend their counter-narcotics trafficking operations and expand their rescue of commercial shipping..
Despite Congressional opposition, Obama not only has not instituted military courts to try Guantanamo prisoners but instead has been releasing them to various countries. They would ostensibly assure Washington that the prisoners would not return to combat. In some cases, the recipient governments have given less than firm guarantees but instead on humanitarian grounds have released their charges. Opponents of Obama’s policy see his steady release of prisoners as his way of evading Congress’ expressed wish that the facility continue to hold what would normally be prisoners-of-war held under international law were the U,S. engaged in fight with another sovereign government.
As of January 2016, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [ODNI], 676 detainees Obama has transferred out of Guantanamo Bay. U.S. Authorities have confirmed 118 have returned to terrorist activities, while another 86 are suspected of doing so. Abdul Qayyum Zakir, released by the U.S. to Pakistan authorities, became head of the revived Taliban but was ousted in 2014 in a struggle among the top leadership.Mullah Abdul Kayum Sakir, another of the released prisoners,has been reported participating in the struggle for leadership in Afganistan. As early as 2004, former Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that detainees had hidden their real identities from interrogators, convincing them they were harmless to secure their release. There is also evidence that some of prisoners who had only marginal relations with the terrorists have been further radicalized in prison before their release to foreign governments.
There seems to be little doubt that the Obama Administration has minimized the use of possible intelligence from Guantanamo prisoners. And by releasing growing numbers, it is strengthening the leadership of the very terrorist organizations the White House has just announced it is sending an additional military increment of some 500 soldiers to fight.
sws-07-11-16

Obama and race


There was a general expectation among Americans that the election of a president with a black face would improve race relations, a continuing and profound anomaly in the freest of nations. There was even a suggestion that particularly in the academic and media communities that hope was one of his most attractive qualifications of Barrack Hussein Obama for office.
That this expectation has not been fulfilled shluld not come as a great surprise after an examination of the President’s background. America’s legacy of slavery is a deep and complex one. The very fact that legal segregation of the races was only abolished in the lifetime of many voters is one indication. Furthermore, prejudice against color is a universal failing,even in countries where there are a majority of colored peoples in Asia and as well as other European societies, and even in Africa itself. In a certain vein, color consciousness has become enshrined in literature and folklore.
There was also the fact that Barack Hussein Obama did not come out of what could be called the mainstream of American black life, even though more and more successful professionals have escaped it, in the ghetto. Obama himself was abandoned at an early age by his black Kenyan Moslem father, and when his mother remarried, it was to an Indonesian, and he was in fact reared by his wife grandmother. [He has even written that she expressed fear of black youths in her daily comings and goings to work as a bank official.]
Nor was Obama’s later experience as a community organizer among blacks in the South Chicago ghetto very educational. He was largely unsuccessful in his efforts – encouraged by a radical leftwing Jewish mentor – because he failed to establish intimate relations with the area’s black Christian ministers, almost the only political and social structure in the ghetto.
In office Obama has co impounded this lack of symbiosis with the black community despite the usual formal relationships with black political organizations that every president takes on, certainly once in office. His almost immediate offhand comments on racial incidents are not only no elucidation of the problem but generally confusing. Naively. Acknowledging that he does not know the facts of the incident, he nevertheless goes right ahead almost immediately to make a false analysis of the episode..
That he has inferentially endorsed the whole “Black lives matter” organization is part and parcel of this misunderstanding of the nature of the racial problem. He apparently is totally ignorant or disregards that this radical anti-white organization is based on the lie that an innocent black life was mistakenly taken in a shooting in Seminole County February 26, 2012. After a 16-hour jury deliberation, George Zimmerman, the white charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a 17-year-old black, Trayvon Martin, was acquitted. The jury had a majority of blacks and Hispanic Americans. Yet Obama continues to treat the incident as a violation of black civil rights.
Obama is certainly correct in labeling the continued difficulties of black Americans with prejudice and discrimination. But, as former New York City Rudy Guillini has insisted, Obama and other black leaders refuse to grapple with the high level of crime in the black population which is at the root of much of its violence and the high level of arrests and imprisonment.
Nor has Obama taken ntervened in his own native city of Chicago where dozens of black youths in gang warfare are shot by other blacks every week. The fact that Mayor Rahm Enmanuel, also a native Chicagoan, was former chief of staff to Obama’s White House makes the situation all that more poignant. In fact, there are signs the level of violence is rising. On a not untypical weekend Four men were killed and at least 62 others, including three children, were wounded in shootings across Chicago over the Fourth of July holiday weekend,.
There is no question that national leadership is missing in a period of heightened racial tensions. Given Obama’s strong prejudices a, there is little hope that it will be forthcoming in the next few months before he leaves office. Hopefully, voters will take this important question into their consideration of the president they will elect in November.
sws-07-10-16